Derek Johnson Muses

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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Nebraska 2012 Alternate Uniforms Good, but Will Face Ridicule

Since my post on Nebraska’s alternate uniforms was my most popular by a million miles (it had 255 of its over 800 view Friday and today, more than any other post I’ve ever had by far, and I published it back in April), I’m linking this post I wrote for Husker Locker to hear. We’ve got a lot of forums up over there, so check it out!

My Husker Game Day: Part 3

(This is the the third post in a piece I wrote a few years ago about my experience going to Husker games: Part 1 and Part 2)

Washington 2011-Big Picture

Tunnel Walk is where the game starts for me. Highlights from the previous years, mingled in with a few highlights from this year, or last years game against a common opponent. It has been a bit sad in recent years; looking at the glory from the 1990’s which seems a million miles away. But times in college football have changed, and Nebraska’s had a rough patch. At least now, we’re a program that the state can be proud of.

As I watch the memories, some of which I can recall as I kid and many I can’t, my blood starts to rush as I begin to think about the five year stretch between 1993 and 1997 when Nebraska won sixty of sixty-three games and three national championships. And I wonder if, in spite of the tougher conferences and the nemesis that is the state of Texas, that kind of dominance could still be possible. It is usually about this team that I see the team exit the locker room and start toward the field. And as I see the players pup themselves up with high fives from the fans, I feel the rush again, the ownership that whole state has in this team. And then they hit the field, and I know inside that anything is possible.

All games are different, depending on the opponent and the stakes. I don’t go to insignificant non-conference games anymore . The only two notable non-conference game for me were Bo Pelini’s first game against competent mid-major Western Michigan, and the 2007 season opener against Nevada, where I was lucky enough to find a $50 ticket four rows up on the forty yard line.

Then there are the average conference games, against the Baylors, Iowa States, Kansases, and, since the conference switch, Minnesota. These games are nice wins, and occasionally, a very embarrassing loss. (See Iowa State 2009). These are the majority of games that I go to. Occasionally, bigger stakes make the games more important (the K-State game in 2009 for the conference title), but most of the time there’s little tangible drama. These teams may have good enough players or a good enough coach to hang with the Huskers for a while, but ultimately, the crowd takes over.

Since 2010, I only go to the significant games. That year, I only home games I went to were Texas (ugh) and Missouri, and this past year, Washington (family in town) and Ohio State (my soggy story of the night) . I trimmed back how many games because, in my memory, the tougher games are the ones that stand out: the 2006 games against Texas was the most memorable game I attended at Memorial Stadium, win or loose (read the experience here). It’s so much work to go to a game, it’s almost not worth it to go in the stadium and watch anyone but Oklahoma, Texas, or Ohio State and Michigan now.

The game, I get lost in. After the kickoff, I rarely take photos of the action, shameful I know. But for the three-and-a-half hours in the stands, it’s just me and my team, as I’ve been abandoned in uniformity. Game day is really the only time that Lincoln becomes a crowd like a crowd you would find in a major city like San Francisco or Chicago, where you can just be anonymous and no one looks at you. It’s strangely freeing.

Attending a live games pull me in ways that are almost inexplicable. Unlike when I’m at home, I have to fight the urge to curse, and I can’t just go get up and walk into another room when it gets frustrating. Everything’s out there in front of me. The turmoil within always comes from the fact that this game will stay fixed in my mind for the better part of the next couple of years, and even though I’ll watch the highlights on YouTube, the nuances from the stadium will stick with me. The views of the players on the sidelines, the demeanor of the people around me. My brain will process everything.

During halftime, I usually get up and walk. When I was younger, I liked to walk around the stadium as much as I could, but not as much now that I’m familiar with all the nooks and crannies. Often times now, I’ll just find an empty space and sit against the wall with my legs stretched out and periodically check my radio for updates on other games. But I like to take the earbuds out and sit there distant from all the senses that I’m taken in, almost as if I’m napping.

But then I go back to my seat and watch the game. If Nebraska ends up winning, I’m on a high whose high by is determined how big the win is. It’s just a buoyancy that propels the rest of my day. If it’s a loss, I feel as if I’m trapped in a painting that I can’t get out of. Losses feel more like subtractions to me, little non-events and omissions where something I can’t define has left me.

Washington 2011-Little Moment

When I leave the game, and usually I stay to the end or near end (longer than I have to), I’ll take a round-about way to get to the one of the west gates, if I’m not sitting in the south stadium, which is closed off. Leaving is always a rush for me, and I like picking my way through crowds. I feel unnoticed even though I’m with people, and once, when I was going back down through a crowd of people who were trying to head up to their seats, someone tapped me on the shoulder from behind and noted how good I was at doing so.

I have a bad habit of cutting across streets when I’m not supposed to. I’ll do it a lot at the end of the I-180 bridge at 9th street, where occasionally there will be enough breaks in traffic (no one heads into downtown at the end of a Husker game), and dart back into the Haymarket, reversing my way back through the tailgaters who are still grilling and watching games as I go back to my car. On the way, I often stop at Jack’s for a drink (they’re less crowded) or grab a tea from Scooter’s or The Mill.

When I get to my car, I’m exhilarated. I hit the streets, and try to calculate the best way to get Highway 6. Usually, it involves going down to A via minor streets, then cutting back on Coddington to get on Highway 77 North to go back to Highway 6. This helps me bypass most of the heavier traffic, and once I pass the entrances from Highway 6 to the Interstate, I’m home free.

When I get home, I usually try to go to bed if it’s a night game, but I’ll check the scores quick on my computer. If not, I crash on the couch, grab on easy dinner if I don’t get something on the way, and watch other college football games, waiting for the perspective from the game highlights. By now, I’m very content, and while working on Monday has usually started to loom, I couldn’t be happier for the experience. Except if it was a loss, of course.

Road Notes: Back to Wisconsin and Dodging Biting Dogs

It was a bit exasperating to my psyche to go back to Wisconsin (even more so when a dog tried literally to bite me-keep reading), driving most of the same route to the same fields that I went to a month ago. But, I have some new experiences, so another edition of Road Notes. (First Edition and Sequel)

Plot in Spring Green is Shedding

Tuesday morning, I wake up in Dubuque, say goodbye to Tom and grab another punch for a free coffee. The morning clouds are laced by blue sun; it’s hazy and humid, but thankfully not a scorcher. When I get to the plot at Fennimore, I have to call our grower to double-check the location and find out the field I assumed was our test is not our test plot. The actual test plot is located in a place that is much more difficult to get to, along roughly graveled access road up-and-down an uneven plane. The plot itself is planted in a strip on a hill, and it’s going to be a long carry when I harvest the plants here.

Post-field, I head into Fennimore, intending find a library to e-mail some field notes to my father to make sure we are on the same page. I park the library parking lot, but see a bakery across the street, so I decide to support the local business. I don’t go in at first, but instead stand right outside the door to make sure they have WiFi. They do. The bakery is run by some conservative protestant women wearing homemade dresses and prayer-head coverings. I buy a pecan roll (incidently, “pecanroll” is the WiFi password). I e-mail my father, facebook a photo of the bakery to a friend of mine who’d love it (he does), and waste another twenty-minutes downloading podcasts, as if I haven’t already purchased two books on CD. Overall, the trip is a disaster.

The Cottage Bakery in Fennimore

This time, I decide to go straight north out of Fennimore instead of taking US Highway 18. Choosing a county road over US 61, which goes only a handful of miles to the west, it is finally cemented in my head that using county roads to navigate the Wisconsin hills just isn’t worth the hassle, especially when you’re slowing down for the Amish, which I do thrice.

Advancing to the town of Blue River on the Wisconsin River, I wonder what most of America would think if they knew that their milk came from dairies in the rotten wooden barns I’m passing. Blue River reminds me of Stapelhurst. Like every American town of 400 or less, it has too many buildings meant for businesses. From Highway 60 east, I get a spectacular view of the Wisconsin, which is dotted with sandbars, but nowhere near as shallow as the Platte.

Post-plot inspection (this one will be much easier to harvest than Fennimore), I drive into Spring Green and eat lunch at The Kitchen at Arcadia Books, the high-class bookshop/coffee shop I passed by last trip. The shop is built for light (light blue walls, varnished wood) and brandishes several old covers of The New Yorker on its walls. Ironic for southwest Wisconsin; must get Chicagoans out her for the Shakespeare festival.

 

Burn up through the valley to Mauston, where I stop at an Evangelical Christian coffee shop on the square. I’m drawn to the art in their windows, but I order a latte with a shot as well. They’re closing, so I head off and make a wrong turn as I try to get on the interstate and have to go back around the construction in town. Even though I-94 goes at an angle, only Wisconsin Highway 82 has an exit. 58 does not.

Most interesting vehicle I encounter on the way to Colfax is a F-350 with a trailer, North Carolina plates, and N.C. State plate on the front. Colfax is on the end of a dry spell, and our stuff there doesn’t look great, although it’s still July. On the way back down, I stop for dinner at Moe’s Almost Famous Diner, a 1950’a style place that I should have known values environment over food. The waitress is unengaged, tells me where to sit, is late taking my order and in bringing me the check, resulting in her tip getting dock. The food is really bad too, and I drive down to Tomah disappointed. Checking into the Super 8, the guy in front of me speaks with a Canadian accent, so I assume he’s driving the vehicle with Winnipeg Jets plates in the parking lot.

Tuesday morning, I wake up and, forgetting my lesson from the Cottage Bakery, waste a lot of time trying unsuccesfully to sync my iPod to my laptop. Our plot in Tomah has some insect damage but looks okay otherwise. As I get back to my truck, I met one of our plot’s farmers, introduce myself, and give him my card. We chat for a minute about the lack of rain, and I head out.

A couple miles east of Tomah, there’s a roadblock due to a bridge that’s out. I’m out in the middle of cranberry country and national forests, which means a long detour if I decide to take country roads. I consult my GPS and figure it’s worth the risk to go country roads. It pays off: I only have to drive eight or ten miles around, and I’m back on Wisconsin Highway 21.

Pond on the way

After viewing our field by Coloma, I stop for lunch at the Culver’s in Portage and trying to prove I’m classy, I find a lake and eat lunch in front of a bunch of swimming kids. Swing through downtown, cross the river, and I’m back on I-39.

I arrive at our plot in Arlington circa 12:30. It’s right next to a house, so I figure I should knock there first to let the people know I’m there. When I pull in the driveway, a dog comes up barking. I decide to ignore him, as I do all barking dogs, but he comes up beside me and bits a hole in my pant leg. (Praise the Lord I choose to put on long pants today.) Rattled, I head back to the cab of my truck without knocking on the door and without getting bit again. I debate what to do for a second, but then someone comes driving up the lane from the behind one of the barns. We speak to each other through our respective truck cabs; I don’t tell him about the dog bite, and he instructs me to drive to the field at the end of the lane I’m on. I do, and sit sheepishly in the cab for a few minutes while the dog continues to bark. Eventually, I cautiously get out and head into the field. The dog doesn’t follow me. I’m a bit relieved when I see that most of the crop here has been lost to drought, meaning I won’t have to go here again.

The dying plot

I take a county road (this one actually is straight) down to Sun Prairie, an upscale Madison suburb where I search for a place to buy scissors to cut off the dog rip in my pants. I don’t mess around and tell myself to stop at the first store I see, which turns out to be a Dollar General. No one stares at me when I go to buy the $2 scissors and a Gatorade, or when I come out and stand at the open door of my truck cutting my cargo pants into shorts. Thankfully, these pants were about shot anyway. On my way out of the shopping center where I bought the scissors, I make a failed attempt to jump on McDonald’s WiFi from there parking lot.

While I stop in Marshall to use their sterile peach library’s WiFi and call my Dad, I tweet about the irony of their being towns named Waterloo and Watertown within twenty miles of each other.

After examining the plot (excellent stand in spite of the heat), I drive into Watertown and take a leisurely break at Tribeca, a book/coffee shop with an upstairs that has a view of downtown Watertown. After working on an HL column on Rex Burkhead, I stroll down town to the river which must give Watertown its name. A bunch of teenagers roam the streets, and I wonder if their bored here during the summer.

Watertown

As I drive north out of Watertown, my dad texts me that the plot in Fox Lake has been abandoned and I won’t have to go there. I drive relieved through the wretched roundabout to get to Wisconsin Highway 26, relieved a stop has been eliminated.

I spend the night at what used to be the AmerInn in Waupun. The hotel is now called Borders for some reason, and a bunch of road crews are staying there. I’m exhausted, so I got to the one restaurant that’s close that I like: Culver’s, for the second time today. Later, I go back for ice cream.

I wake up at four and can’t get back to sleep. I work on my Husker Locker column, getting to the body of the work. I still manage to leave late and get to the first Omro plot at 8:40. The second plot takes me a while to find, but it’s by an abandoned school. The two plots (four miles apart) are works in contrast: the first is completely healthy, the second will be abandoned because of drought and weeds. Relieved, I drive back to Omro and waste some time browsing a thrift store.

Joe Pa and The Governor: A Surprising Analogy

Coy is the word I would use to describe the trailer for the new season of The Walking Dead, and Robert Kirkman can afford to be coy with his pet project. Having set cable records and zombified the geek audience hungry for a cult show after the end of Lost, TWD doesn’t have to set up a huge event in its third season premiere, just be building to one.

But there is one curious thing I noticed in the trailer, and that is the possible next direction the show may go: tackling the key issue facing small town America. Will Kirkman be setting up The Governor to be Joe Paterno in the apocalypse?

I haven’t read TWD comics, but The Governor/Paterno analogy could be one that gains steam. Like Paterno, The Governor is a lone dominating figure in landscape where leadership is lacking. People turn to him no matter whether he is good or bad: like Randall, they just think they’ll have a better chance with him. In any case, David Morissey looks like the perfect pick, and it should make for great drama.

Vidcasts: Thank you and Penn State

Yesterday, I was in the middle of a long day that started out in Hasting and ended with a meeting at church at night. In between, I ran into Lincoln with my Dad to pick up my truck from my mom and bring it home. Of course, I ended up getting caught in a log-jam on the interstate, so I decided to do a couple of vidcasts, one as a thank you and another on the issues at Penn State post-Freeh report: Penn State getting NCAA sanctions (possibly the death penalty) and Joe Paterno’s statue.

Something I didn’t mention in the Penn State vidcast: while I understand a lot of the people coming into this debate who aren’t following college football regularly saying that Penn State should be given the penalty, I would say this: yes, Penn State’s lack of action is horrid, and the program needs to be punished. But a lot of other parties will get hurt in this: namely, Penn State’s non-revenue sports depend on football for funding and the Big 10 depends on Penn State. This is a “too big to fail” situation. This is not just taking away a recreational activity; this is dropping an atomic bomb, and even if it were necessary, it needs to be debated seriously.

When it comes to sanctions, remember this: USC got hit harder for Reggie Bush’s extra benefits (which mostly went to his parents) than Ohio State did for Terrelle Pryor and many other players. Ohio State was worse on so many greater levels: Jim Tressell knew about the scandal, Pete Caroll was merely ignorant. Point being, trying to predict what the NCAA will do (in a situation without precedence, no less) is next to impossible.

Again, thanks for reading and subscribe to my YouTube Channel.

Is Spider-Man Batman’s Handmaiden?

Who’s your Spidey

Terry Hayes’ script for a Planet of the Apes reboot from the mid-90’s exemplifies how timing can be everything for a major film. Thought by some at Fox to be one of the greatest scripts they ever read, the film would have starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and focused on a pair of scientists sent back in time to combat a plague that would leave humanity extinct, having a dark, edgier tone like The Dark Knight trilogy. But the top dogs at Fox wanted a film that had more humor, like the Batman films of the 1990’s and The Flinstones film. Thus, the script was never produced, and we got Tim Burton’s Wooden Ape World.

When I saw The Amazing Spider-Man earlier this week, I wondered to myself, if this was the script that had been produced ten years ago as the first Spider-Man movie, would it have been more favorably received that it is being received now, or more so than the Sam Raimi-Tobey Maguire version was then.

To be fair, 2002’s Spider-Man was a good film, and he original Spider-Man had a budget $90 million less than the franchise reboot, which relies move heavily on CGI. But there are a lot of things that this film does get better, starting with the cast. There’s an edgier Peter Parker, Andrew Garfield compared to the straightless, 1930-is Maguire. Even though Garfield’s 28, he seemed very at home as a high school student. The cast has more name value than the original, with veteran actors Martin Sheen, Sally Field, and Dennis Leary supporting Garfield and Emma Stone, who stands out more than Maguire and Kirsten Dunst ever did. I can’t even remember the actress who played aunt May in the original trilogy, and J.K. Simmons was costumed to the hilt.

The real triumph in The Amazing Spider-Man is that the script moves seamlessly through the key scenes of the Spider-Man origin, introduces the villain later in the film, and toward the end of the film, finds a believable crisis for Spider-Man to solve. To just throw in a bio-attack on New York that isn’t hinted at earlier in the film could have easily changed the tone of the film, but the tone remains consistent throughout.

Even though the reboot shows a different part of Peter Parker’s background (being left by his parents with his aunt and uncle at a young age), it doesn’t need to redo the spider-biting-Peter and uncle Ben’s death. Not that Sheen isn’t great in the film, but The Amazing Spider-Man takes about an hour to do the same thing we’ve already seen on film, costing the audience (and studio) a lot. If a Hulk movie gets something right that your movie doesn’t, that’s not good.

But underlying the first Spider-Man and this one are the respective Batman franchises of their times. While the first Spider-Man trilogy modeled Tim Burton’s blend of comic book humor and jarring action, this one is modeling Christopher Nolan’s method of gritty realism. The problem is, Spider-Man 2 was the definitive best comic book movie ever made before The Dark Knight. Not that a reboot wasn’t a good idea (Tobey Maguire was starting to look a bit too old), but Spider-Man needs to be its own franchise.

I do hope that The Amazing Spider-Man is successful and yields a sequel, mainly because have the material to make an even better movie. Consider how Spider-Man 2 and The Dark Knight, both second films of their respective series, improved upon their predecessors. I just hope that The Amazing Spider-Man continues to be its own franchise, even though it and a lot of other comic adaptions can learn a lot from The Dark Knight trilogy.

Should the Caped Crusader be carrying Peter Parker?

The People I See at Culver’s

I walk into Culver’s in Waterloo, Iowa to get lunch last Monday, and there’s this older couple there standing with their backs to the condiment rack. The older couple in front of me tell this one guy to go ahead of them. I wince and hope they don’t invite me to move up in line, because I have no idea what I want. My indecision forces me to stand in front of the trash bin, creating an awkward situation when people have to throw their trash away. An older woman accidentally throws her plastic tray into the trash can, then reaches into get it. (I would have just left it.)
The older couple doesn’t invite to precede them, and I wait a while longer than I otherwise could have. The older couple orders coffee, which the girl behind the counter gives them in a diner-esque, glass cup. I settle on the prime rib sandwich and potato bacon soup, figuring it’s impossible to screw up either prime rib or bacon. The woman who takes my order is named Janet, looks 40-ish and stuck in life.
This Culver’s is in the middle of lunch rush of old people and odd families. I sit at a table for two. There’s a girl with a chocolate shake sitting at the table to my right, probably high school age, with a man who looks halfway between being her father and grandfather wearing a blue shirt and a St. Louis Cardinals cap. They eat fast and leave quickly. In their place sits a 50-something, power woman (first generation by the look of her short, gelled blond hair) in a pink suit jacket with a pink phone to match. She uses the phone all through lunch.
Across from me, a girl sits in 4-person booth by herself. Both she and the first girl are wearing gray shirts. She plays with her phone a while after she finishes eating, then leaves and is replaced by a group of three: a young professional man and woman who are suited up, and one hipster guy with an earring, backwards white ball cap, and shorts black and white plaid shorts. I can’t tell who the hipster is more associated with, the man or the woman.
Two tables to my left, two old guys are sitting together like they are at the coffee shop; one wears a shrine bowl t-shirt, the other wears a polo and discusses how long the Yankees game takes and other baseball topics
Directly in front of me, a pudgy woman is sitting with her kid who strews fries all over a burger wrapper. The woman leaves her garish purse in the booth when she takes her daughter to the restroom. Girl wears a shirt two sizes too big that seems to advertise a pumpkin patch. After they leave, a couple who looks like their our for their athletic weekend walk in a make-shift suburban forest sit at the table with their daughter. The daughter is to engrossed in her phone.
Two tables to my right, two women with lots of eyeliner wearing scrubs (nurses, probably) eat slowly and seem to be having a conversation about the men in their lives.
In the booth to the left of the one with the woman and her daughter, are two women who look like sisters with a daughter with a white and black spotted skirt way too short. They are not as classy as the nurses. Girl has brown hair that could look sly red at the right angle. When they leave, the woman and her daughter get into a car with TCU decals and Texas plates. Figures.
A couple sits next to me, my age and as Iowan as American Gothic. The redhead girl sits first, then asks her man to watch her purse when she goes to the restroom. He leaves his red fox racing hat on while he eats and wears the black t-shirt of a guy who goes out to the bar every Friday and Saturday night cause he doesn’t put his energy into anything else. She seems classy-nice jeans, nicer purse, decent sandals, toe nails done. Probably a bit out of his league, but she seems to have affection for him.

These are my lunch breaks when I’m on the road.

20120710-063607.jpg

Alien, Prometheus, and the Married Life of Abortion and Darwinism

(Warning: The following post contains spoilers from the movie Prometheus. Proceed at your own risk.)

I saw Alien and Aliens ten years ago, and when I began reading about Prometheus, the prologue to Alien, last year, I was curious Damon Lindelof’s bold statements that Prometheus would be a bold film about idea and philosophy, and after reconsidering Alien, I wanted to see the film. Lindelof himself is among a group of sci-fi writers who seek to provide man with an explanation for the universe that can exclude God (which I wrote about last winter after seeing Super 8) and is generally a preachy writer who insists on inserting his big, meaty ideas into what would ordinally be an interesting narrative on its own.

Remembering the original film and it’s signature images, I saw Alien as an analogy for how the breakdown of the family can lead to abortion. Think of a young woman, who has a rocky relationship with her parents, then runs off with a boyfriend who turns out to be abusive. Then she hears that she’s pregnant, and in that instant, she envisions the baby growing inside her as a monstrous combination of her parents and boyfriend, just waiting to burst out of her chest. Her abusive boyfriend blames her for getting pregnant, she is an object of scorn to her family, and the weight of caring for a baby weighs on her. She has to kill it, even if it means killing part of herself.

Unwanted pregnancy?

Prometheus has a much more direct abortion scene, where central character Elizabeth Shaw (a Ripley without Ripley-isms) has a Cesarian section of an alien baby in automated medical chamber. It is grizzly and terrifying as anything in the original Alien, as Shaw programs the machine to remove the rapidly developing offspring from her deceased lover. But what the scene gets really right is the loneliness of abortion: Shaw runs down the corridors of a ship full of people alone, has the alien removed by machine (apparently without numbing medicine), and afterward, stumbles out down the hallway. Abortion, in one sense, really is a desire to remain alone, out of the sense of sin. If you can’t deal with your own sin, how could you deal with the sin of the next generation.

The sadness of being

The tragedy of abortion is just the tip of Prometheus‘ ice berg of man’s desire to make a god that works for him. The film throws  around view points: Shaw herself is the child of Christian missionaries, but Lindelof’s choice of her religion seems blase. The film doesn’t even seem that interested in proving Christianity wrong (which it does anyway), but showing the danger of what happens when man ventures to seek that which is above him. To Prometheus, the “maker of humanity” (humanoid aliens who left their DNA on earth to give Darwin the boost he needed) is a cruel, arbitrary judge who destroys the humans and would go to destroy their homeland and start over. In short, the ancestor in Prometheus is how non-Christians view God, all justice and no mercy.

After watching the film, I was curious as to why Deism was replaced by Darwinism. Deism allows man to believe in a creator without dealing sin. Darwinism lead man on a path that  puts man into such a more depressing situation.That is the world where literally you would want to kill the offspring that comes from your flesh. The original Alien had much better philosophy.

Extra Mayo Without a Second Though

In the end of it, I was laughing so hard, I swear that I was in a college dorm room.

I was haging out with my friend Tom in the apartment of his friends Heidi, Naomi, and Laura, along with Heidi’s sister Emily. Tom’s roommate Dale and friend Bryce were along for what would be a very intriguing ride.

The night began innocently enough, with Heidi giving us one of her subtle psychology quizzes. Then she and Emily made things interesting and brought a jar of mayonnaise and graham crackers in the room. The girls began dipping the crackers into the mayo, and eating them, much to our collective dismay.

Naturally, I found this disgusting, given that I’ve never had a taste for odd food combination, such as peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches. But I felt a bit game, so I took a bit of graham cracker and swept up a bit of mayo on it. It tasted innocuous so I tried another one with a bit more on it. The flavors didn’t mesh very well. I tried one more with just a little, and it seemed fine, although I asserted the blend wasn’t perfect. I did it a couple more times, just so people couldn’t say I was coward.

By now, the attitude in the room was getting rowdy. Heidi had attempted to feed Tom a cracker chucked full of mayo, but both he and Dale refused. Bryce and I had gamely tried it. Upping the ante, the girls tried eating full spoonfuls off a big wooden spoon, wincing as they did so. I told them it would be easier to just chuck the spoon done without thinking. (Speaking from personal experience gained off a blender drinking dare in high school.)

But after Naomi choked down a glob and Heidi asserted she was going to be sick, they asked of we would believe that it was all just white chocolate pudding. They brought in the empty boxes to prove their ruse, and I tried the “mayo” again, trying to figure out why I hadn’t realized it when I tried it.

 

This was one of the odder experiences I’ve had in the last couple of years, mainly because, in high school and college, I was often the guy who didn’t get the joke and was on the fringes. To do this day, I still look around when people laugh, expecting to have done something embarrassing by accident. But this experience reminded of what I love about people, that they are capable of such great “creativity”, and life is about unexpected joys. This certainly counted.

BCS End in Sight: Can We Celebrate Greatness Now?

You got what you wanted.

So the college football playoff is here. Personally, I’m relieved, not be because I’ve hated the BCS , but because I’m tired of listening to the mortal rage against the system, while the teams on the field get ignored. Even in the last three years, when there wasn’t a huge argument over the two teams that played for the National Title, nobody cared about the National Title Game because the BCS had already lost its credibility.

For me, the most disappointing part of last season was that LSU and Alabama were two of the greatest teams I’d ever seen, and, no one really cared. Granted, part of that was the fact they were defense-based teams that produced two slugfests, and the other conferences can’t stand the SEC’s supremacy, even though it’s obvious. But, in the twenty-three games they didn’t play each other, the closest anyone came to either team was thirteen points twice (both Mississippi State and Oregon versus LSU). The last National Champion to beat every team by multiple scores was the 1995 Nebraska team. Still, fans barely acknowledge Alabama’s accomplishment because of the BCS.

Two of the greatest ever and for what?

The BCS tried too hard to get it. In its early year, the BCS was tweaked after each year to correct the error of the previous year, hurting its credibility. If they’d kept the formula used in 2000, Oregon would have played for the title in 2001, not Nebraska. But nobody mentions that. They should have used the exact same formula to decide the National Champion for the first four or eight years, then made changes instead of being reactionary on weekly basis.

There were actual years were you had two undisputed contenders, like Auburn and Oregon in 2010 and Texas and USC in 2005. You’re likely never going to have a year with four completely undisputed teams in the country. Not that I’m saying we should stick with the status quo, but a playoff is not going magically fix everything.

Some people think that it will be an easy march from here to 8 or 16 teams, but I would doubt it. First, there would be the logistical issue of the four quarter-final games, whether or not to play them in December on campus sites or incorporate them into the Bowl system and move that way. Then you’ll have the issue of who should get the eight seeds, and the at-large versus conference champions will come up again, and with eight teams, it will be more difficult to solve. Plus, some in college football circles (such as Phil Steele) who supported a four-team playoff won’t fight for a larger one.

What really could get the playoff to eight teams is the following scenario: a fourth team sneaks into the last spot in the playoff over a team that beat them. This won’t be like the NCAA Basketball Tournament, where arguing over the anonymous teams who got left out is done by the next cycle of Sports Center. There’s a month until both teams play again, and everyone sees all the major college football game, so the selection committee’s mistakes will be obvious. Then, the team that got in scores a memorable upset against the top team (akin to Ohio State upsetting Miami in 2002), and then the team that got left out of the playoff cries for a larger playoff. Three and four of those, and Death to the Four-Team Playoff books will start lining the shelves.

The regular season will still matter. LSU-Alabama last year probably still would have mattered as much as under the playoff system, because the winner controlled its destiny and the looser would still have to win all their games to have a shot at the playoff. Last year, it was pretty much assumed both teams would play for the title after Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State. Nothing would have been that much different under a playoff system, although Alabama wouldn’t have had to wait for as many teams to loose. The big question will be, will teams throw conference title games when their own position in the playoff is secure? Last year, it may have benefited LSU to throw the SEC Title game if they were playing an 11-1 team and loosing meant taking Alabama out of the playoff. Remember, Oklahoma was rolled by Kansas State and remained one of the top four teams in the country by a mile. Inviting in a team that flopped in its final games could be one of the biggest pitfalls for a selection committee.

These are just some of the issues that college football will face in its brave new world; let’s just hope that, when the dust settles, the focus is on the teams.

How would a selection committee look at Oklahoma’s 2003 letdown against Kansas State the previous night?

So now, is college football better off now in this brave new world? Yes, but not greatly.

My 4th of July, Shout-Outs for My 200th Posts, and the Story of My Most Popular Post

The Seward Courthouse, as it looks 364 days a year. The Fourth of July is a little different.

My parents really don’t observe holidays. Well, that’s noy completely accurate. They take Christmas and Thanksgiving off course. They use Labor Day as an excuse to take an extend holiday by Lake Michigan in between sales meetings and the Fourth of July week allows them save money by close the office. But whenever my extended family calls to see of they’ll be home for Memorial Day, I have to say “No, to my parents, this day when everyone else has cookouts and goes camping is a day when it’s time to get caught up on work.” It’s probably why are company is so successful.
I don’t get worked up for the Fourth of July like other people in Seward do, or like I did when . Granted, I’m excited to have people over to watch fireworks, and it’s great seeing people I otherwise wouldn’t get to connect with. But as far as the vendors in the square go, I really don’t have any interest. I did buy some food and seasoning I’ll use, and I swiped three books from the library book fair. I got out early to St John’s pancake breakfast, wrote in the shade, and bought some ribbon fries and a pork sandwich. A week from now, I’ll be roaming around Milwaukee once I’m done seeing our plots. That will be just as fun.
What I do enjoy about the fourth in Seward is that it’s the one day a year that you can disappear in this town. I’ll enjoy it tonight when people will come to watch the fireworks in the park next to where I live, even though it will clog up the street. For an evening, I will be able to make believe that we live in a major city (not unlike I do on Husker game days in Lincoln.) That’s what I love about the Fourth in Seward.

Not to get overly sentimental, but since this is my 200th post, I want give a couple of shot outs. I only noticed the other day that I have gotten to 200 in under eight month, which I guess turns me into a blogging degenerate. Still, I’ve had a lot of positive experiences writing this blog, and I want to acknowledge that.
First, thanks again to Eirinn Boyd and Adriane Dorr, whose own blogs turned me onto WordPress. Eirinn, your witty and funny journey continues to amaze me. Adraine, your posts always challenge me, and you write with a firmer hand than anyone I know (And thanks to you, I’ve gotten quite a few hits). I’ve found a lot of good blogs, and three of the best are Tide Bits (thanks for linking me), Living in the Light, and Atlantic Coast Convos (John, ESPN is crazy if they don’t buy your blog). I also have gotten to connect with people from way back, Facebook friends I never see. Thanks to regular commenters Amanda Chew Frederick and Kristi Wickboldt. Special thanks goes to Brandon Cavanaugh, who read this blog and invited me to be a contributor to Husker Locker. Brandon, thanks for taking a chance on me and always being open to my directions. Same thanks goes to Julia Noyes, who is now allowing me to blog for Noyes Art Gallery. Thanks to all my Facebook friends who read this blog.
Out of the 200 posts I’ve written, I’ve had one that’s come to the tipping pointing, my Husker-alternate-uniforms post. That post was the most-viewed post week after week in June, over a month after it was published. Funny thing was, I thought that maybe it wasn’t the right time to put up a Husker piece, as it was two weeks after the news of alternate uniforms had come out. But I posted it, and two hours later, I returned to my computer to find that it had eighty-three views. My most popular post at the time had had a hundred, over several days. The only publicity I’d given it were post to Facebook and Twitter, and the majority of the views came from Facebook. For that one posts, the other 199 were more than worth it.

Paterno Was Who He Appeared to Be

One of the things that didn’t bode well for Joe Paterno when the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke last November was that Paterno’s management style was very hands-on, to point Penn State president Graham Spanier felt he had to run academic matters by him. While it wasn’t conclusive, Paterno claiming he just passed up Mike McQueary’s reports didn’t fit the profile the legendary coach created for himself. Reading Sally Jenkins interview of Paterno and Lavar Arrington’s response to it, I kept wondering for myself about the McQueary incident and the 1999 Sandusky-shower incident that was reported to university police which Paterno said he didn’t know about. Not knowing a coach had a run in with campus police? Paterno advising someone else to take early retirement and just passing an incident up the chain of command? This was the coach who, three years later, would kick Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley out of his house when they came to suggest to him that he should retire.

So when CNN reported that Curley consulted with Paterno about the 2001 incident, I wasn’t really all that surprised. Granted, I had theorized that Spanier and the other officials at Penn State may have worked to prevent Paterno from finding out every single detail about Sandusky, wanting to protect Paterno’s legacy by giving him “plausible deniability”. But what really looks bad is that Curley and Spanier first thought about going to the authorities and then changed their minds after Curley talked to Paterno.

My most significant conclusion from reading the Jenkins interview was that Paterno should have retired ten years before the 2001 incident even happened; now it seems that Paterno may have indeed been more active in keeping Sandusky at large. I wanted to believe what Paterno was saying at the time; he was, after all, a eighty-five year-old man with lung cancer. He had no reason not to tell the truth, but even then, I was skeptical that he hadn’t been more involved in 2001 or known about the 1999 incident (Paterno telling someone else to take early retirement?). Sadly, we may never know the full truth of how involved he was.

I don’t know that I would go as far as Gregg Doyle has suggested, writing that Paterno’s statue should absolutely be taken away, although I could understand if Penn State did so. Ultimately, they know what is best for their community.But Louis Freeh has not filed his full report, and until then, we don’t know exactly what Paterno’s role was in deciding how to deal with Sandusky. It is still possible some people in the Penn State community will feel compelled to protect Paterno’s legacy, even though there is a sense in the community that Sandusky’s shame has stained everyone and the truth needs to come out.

Did Curley take the fall for his former coach?

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